December 9, 2007
Agricarchy: the World Development Report 2008
I'm a bit behind in my reading and have only now skimmed the latest World Development Report (2008), entitled Agriculture for Development. These annual volumes summarize the state of research in different areas, and on occasion (1997's report on the state, for example) are path-breaking.
The single biggest barrier to agriculture in developing countries is trade policy in rich countries, which use a variety of trade barriers and subsidies to protect politically powerful farmers. This is not only distorting for rich countries, as it encourages rent-seeking, but squanders capital that could be used to improve productivity in poor countries, which would seem to have a comparative advantage in certain markets. (Chapter 4 of the WDR makes some of these points.)
I call this state of affairs Agricarchy: Rule by Farmers. Actually, it isn't so much farmers like my grandparents, so much as industrial food conglomerates which benefit most from subsidies. A small number of folks in a politically powerful sector are able to distort the world economy, keep down developing countries, and produce suboptimal food through industrial agribusiness technologies. Consumers of the world, unite!
December 9, 2007 | Permalink
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